Hyundai wins race to launch Australia's first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle

Air and water are all that’s emitted from Hyundai’s revolutionary new hydrogen-powered Nexo.

Korean car maker Hyundai has won the race to launch Australia’s first productionised hydrogen fuel cell vehicle with the release of its revolutionary Nexo SUV. 

The Nexo Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) becomes the first hydrogen-powered vehicle certified for sale in Australia, with a 20-strong fleet being leased by the ACT Government. 

Hyundai said its order books were open for other private and fleets customers, albeit on a lease as opposed to a freehold basis, with the Queensland Government reportedly due to take delivery of five Hyundai Nexo FCEVs.  

The launch of the Nexo is something of a PR and marketing coup for Hyundai, beating arch-rival Toyota to market with a technology seen by many as the fuel of the future.

Hyundai NEXO FCEV

Hydrogen FCEVs are regarded as the ultimate solution to the problem of tailpipe CO2 emissions, since hydrogen is an already abundant element, and can be produced using water and green electricity.

Available in a single, highly equipped grade and SUV body style, the Nexo boasts an impressive range between fills of 666km from its zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, comprising a 120kW/395Nm electric motor and a lithium-ion polymer battery.

Hydrogen, which is being produced on site at the Canberra facility using water and green electricity sourced from wind farms, is pumped under pressure into the car’s tanks and from there into a fuel cell stack where it is met with oxygen from the atmosphere. 

The hydrogen and oxygen then react across a catalyst membrane, combining to form water and electricity, with the latter harnessed to power the vehicle’s motor. 

Hyundai Nexo FCEV.

Excess electric energy – and electric energy recuperated during braking – is stored in a high-voltage battery to be deployed when needed, with small quantities of water and cleansed air being the Nexo’s only emissions.   

Toyota is readying its own Mirai FCEV for launch in Australia following five years of local testing and development.

However, unlike Hyundai, which has stated it will lease as many Nexos it can get its hands on to both fleet and private customers, Toyota has said it will make available its initial allocation of 20 Mirai sedans “to select business and government fleets from the first quarter of 2021”.

In both Hyundai and Toyota’s case, the decision of which customers will have access to the revolutionary new vehicles will come back to the availability of hydrogen refuelling facilities, which are a capital intensive and extremely rare commodity in Australia at present.

Hyundai NEXO FCEV

Hyundai’s decision to launch the Nexo in Canberra was enabled by the ACT Government’s commitment to take the first 20 road-registered NEXO FCEVs as government fleet vehicles, and its support for a consortium to build Australia’s first public hydrogen refuelling station in the capital.  

Toyota has said the first deliveries of its all-new Mirai FCEV will be timed to coincide with the commissioning of a new solar-powered hydrogen production site and refuelling station at Toyota's Centre of Excellence in the Melbourne suburb of Altona.

“The arrival of Nexo on Australian roads as an ADR-approved production vehicle is a landmark in Hyundai’s ongoing commitment to green mobility and to hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle technology,” Hyundai Motor Company CEO Jun Heo said.

“The hydrogen Nexo SUV is a cornerstone in the Hyundai portfolio, complementing our hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles the Ioniq and Kona Electric.

Hyundai Nexo FCEV.

“Nexo is also a sign of things to come as Hyundai continues in its long-term drive towards leadership in eco-friendly vehicles.”

Hyundai would not be drawn on the price of the Nexo, with a spokesperson saying the cost would vary depending on whether it is an individual buyer of a fleet, as well on the lease terms. 

However, in the UK, where the Nexo has been on sale for some time, the vehicle can be purchased for the equivalent of $125,000. 

The Queensland Government announced in December last year that it would add five Hyundai Nexo FCEVs to its QFleet as part of its joint efforts to embrace cleaner transport solutions and to develop a hydrogen industry. 

The Hyundai Nexos will be refuelled using renewable hydrogen despatched from a new BOC refuelling station at the Queensland University of Technology.